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Belleek Pottery

Belleek is celebrating 150 years! Founded by John Caldwell Bloomfield in the village of Belleek in 1857.

In 1849, Bloomfield inherited from his father the Castlecaldwell estate which encompassed the village of Belleek. Bloomfield, who was an amateur mineralogist ordered a survey of the land. The survey revealed all the necessary ingredients to make Pottery- feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale. Along the way of starting his pottery business, Bloomfield aquired two business partners, Robert Williams Armstrong and David Mc Birney.

Bloomfield pulled some strings to get the railway to come into Belleek so that he could get coal to heat the kilns as well as send out all the finished products that Belleek made to other cities and countries.

In 1858, since everything seemed to be falling into place, Bloomfield decided they needed a pottery building to manufacture Belleek and on November 18th the foundation stone was laid.

Armstrong who was an architect from London knew that the pottery's success was weighing on talent. He went to London and found several young craftsmen from Stroke-on-Trent and paid them higher wages and gave them an opportunity for a better lifestyle.

Belleek's early products were high quality domestic ware such as, motars and pesltes, washstands, floor tiles, hospital pans, telegraph insulators and tableware.

Armstrong and Mc Birney knew from the begining that they also wanted to expand into porcelain, but their early attempts failed. Finally in 1863 a small amount of unglazed porcelain, also known as parian was produced and they began to create items for Belleek.

In 1865, the company expanded throughout Ireland and England and started to export pieces to the United States, Canada and Australia.

In 1872, Belleek featured porcelain for the first time at the Dublin Exposition. Belleek had the largest display in the Irish and English industrial areas. Belleek's main pieces listed were the Parian china statues and busts, ice buckets, compotes and centerpieces.

In 1882 Mc Birney passed away and a few years later in 1884 Armstrong passed away. After their deaths, a local investor group acquired the property and it became Belleek Pottery Works Company Ltd and began trading in 1884.

In 1893 master craftsmen Frederick Slater joined the Belleek team. Slater modelled the much honoured International Center Piece which stands 28" tall and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. You can view this piece today at the Belleek visitor center.

World War I and II hurt the pottery industry. Coal for the kilns were rationed making it hard for Belleek to make anything. Due to Belleek's devoted craftsmen, china clay, and fuel, Belleek remained open during the difficult war years.

In 1946 Belleek stoped production of earthenware and introduced two new coal fired kilns manufactured by Allport of Stoke. In 1952 Belleek bought their first electric fired kiln, no more would they need to depend on imported coal.

Belleek has it's own Collectors Society that was founded in 1979 by Richard K. Degenhardt. The Society has over 7,500 members who are loyal to Belleek products and are considered ambassadors for the company.

In 1983 Belleek was having economical issues and was forced to change ownership, in 1984 Roger Troughton purchased Belleek. Four years later, in 1988 the company was sold again to Powerscreen International based out of Dungannon and in 1990, Belleek was sold once more to an investment group. The company is currently run out of the USA and is run locally by four Directors - John Maguire, Hugh Quinn, Martin Sharkey and Arthur Goan. With new management, Belleek purchased Galway Crystal, Aynsley China and Donegal Parian China.

Belleek employs over 600 people and has a yearly turnover of $40 Million dollars.

Click here to see more Belleek.

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